Monday 12 October 2015

The Walking Dead: Season 5

I should start by saying that I’m not a Walking Dead fanboy. I haven’t read the comics, I don’t know the entire mythology of each and every character - I am merely a guy who likes the TV series. And I like it a lot, don’t get me wrong, but I cannot comment on how faithful to the comics this season was, or anything like that. You bigger fans might’ve loved certain aspects of Season 5 more than I – but, as a fan of the series alone, I have slightly mixed thoughts. And for those who haven’t yet caught up with the series, there may be spoilers ahead…you have been warned.

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes the fifth season of everyone’s favourite zombie survival series; The Walking Dead. Picking up where Season 4 left off, the gang find themselves still trapped in the cannibalistic clutches of Terminus. But after a violent escape, and a run-in with a hospital overthrown by a psychopath, they’re back on the road – more desperate for shelter than ever before. One thing leads to another and they end up at another big camp with walls and protection. Is it another Woodbury, or have they finally found safety? Throw in a load of human drama and it’s just like any other season. 

The Walking Dead’s fifth season is made up of two halves, with vastly differing quality. As has been the case with a lot of shows for a while now, this season had a mid-season break and was spread over 2 years. The second half of Season 5, which aired from February to March this year, is some of the strongest material this show has brought in a while. In the new camp, known as Alexandria, new characters are met, new alliances (and enemies) made, and eventually a familiar face arrives. It all feels fresh and exciting, and a change from the norm. But the first half of the season was hugely disappointing. Firstly, there was the criminally underused Terminus plotline. After being built up so much throughout Season 4 and climaxing with that season’s superb cliffhanger, I was expecting another Governor scenario which could’ve lasted a while. Unpopularly, the Governor was (and still is, really) my favourite character – what can I say, I like a strong villain. But no. Terminus was all wrapped up and thrown aside within a number of episodes to make way for the Grady Memorial Hospital plotline which was, for me, without a doubt the worst thing The Walking Dead has ever done. Rock bottom. We must endure an uncomfortably long run of episodes watching Beth (Emily Kinney) held hostage in a hospital, made to clean the floors and basically potter around with a confused look on her face. This story reaches its end on the mid-season finale, which left a rather sour taste in the mouth for the next couple of months waiting for the show to come back.

I don’t know where others stood on the hospital plot, I haven’t really been on any forums or message boards or seen any fan responses. But for me, it was painfully tedious and disappointing. Thankfully then, when the show came back in February, it came back strong. Like the seasons before it, Season 5 focuses mainly on the people and the group, more than the undead bastards of the title.Legendary zombie film director George A. Romero said in an interview that The Walking Dead is ‘just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally’, and he’s right. It is. But that’s not a problem, because if it was all hack and slash against the dead, it would get dull fast. Atleast this way, it’s rammed with strong character development and makes the viewer question how they’d handle the apocalypse. This is helped by a solid cast who get better with each season, particularly leading man Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes who after starting rocky in the first season has since made Rick one of the best characters on TV today. And of course, Daryl (Norman Reedus) gets a lot of screen time for his many fans. It’s thanks to this focus on the human side of the show that makes the ‘occasional’ zombie attack all the more exciting, tense and scary. Don’t worry, Season 5 does feature some brilliant zombie shooting, stabbing, hacking and twatting. And the visuals are as dirty and grainy as ever, maintaining the show’s gritty and harsh look – for me, one of the most important things about The Walking Dead that I find myself having to argue with people a lot. “the picture quality is shit”, I hear people cry. It’s a stylistic choice! You really think things are going to look bright and sharp in the apocalypse?! Anyway…

The Walking Dead: Season 5 takes a dip in the first half. There’s no denying that. But once it finds its feet again, it stands strong. The cast are all on top form throughout despite any narrative misfires, the visuals are as beautifully bleak as ever, and we’re left with another top cliffhanger. Season 6 could be a big one, ladies and gentlemen.

The Walking Dead: Season 5 strolls away with a solid 4/5.


Sam Love

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